In the brainstorming that surrounded our current production of House of Gold, Director of Marketing and Communciations Alli Houseworth—who oversees the programs—and I really wanted to take the sensationalism and exploitation that is addressed in the play have it translate into the collateral materials that would support the production. One of the biggest items for patron consumption is the program and we proposed “why not make it a tabloid?” The tabloids took the JonBenét Ramsey story and milked it for all it was worth. Ironically, shortly after our finished program went to press, The Globe ran a cover story on the JonBenét murder “solved” only reinforcing our point.
There is nothing quite so exciting, yet terrifying at the same time, as creating something completely new. Up until this point, during the past year (plus a few months) that I had worked at Woolly, all of our show programs were pretty much the same thing: eight and a half by eleven sheets of paper, folded in half, and stapled together to create a booklet. The tabloid format would give us bigger, yet less, pages to work with and required a completely different look than what we had previously done. The first step was to contact our printers, SVEC Conway, and make sure this format was do-able. Communicating over email and even the phone isn’t the same as face-to-face, but we eventually ended up on the same page (at least we thought so at the time, more on that later.)
My first attempt at the layout was a complete bust. Alli said, and rightfully so, that it looked just like our normal programs but bigger. There was no edginess, no grit, nothing scandalous about it. It was really hard to break out of the established mold of what a Woolly program should look like. In my defense, it helps to do a layout when you have all of your materials (eg. ads, text, images, etc.) which is why deadlines are very important. Make your designer happy: get things in on time to them. Once I received all the materials I needed, I took a weekend, sat down at my computer, and researched the Weekly World News.
I have my college friend, Linka, to thank for introducing me to the…creativity that is the Weekly World News. If we wanted the program to be sensational and on the edge of absurd, this was the resource to turn to. Every now and then, when at the grocery store stocking up on college kitchen essentials, she’d pick up a copy for our entertainment. Weekly World News is probably best known for its series of Bat Boy stories, which was then made in to a popular musical, or which presidential candidate the aliens are endorsing this election season. It’s grainy, black and white photos, with all-caps headlines ending in exclamation points was the direction that Woolly’s program needed to go in. Ten hours later, I had achieved brilliance.
Ok, maybe not brilliance, but the program I had laid out was pretty much spot on what Alli and I had conceived in our initial discussions. There were horribly Photoshopped, grainy, black and white photos. There were lots of all-caps headlines ending in exclamation points. There were starbursts, arrows, and circles calling out Radio Woolly, our blog, and other fun information. We also made a conscious decision about what should appear in color for emphasis and what would stay black and white and were able to fit in a fun fake ad for our amusement. The required information was still there: donors were listed, sponsors had their logos, bios and headshots appeared, ads were placed, but they were done as close to the spirit and style of a supermarket tabloid as we could get them.
The in-house proofs made the rounds resulting in minor tweaks and edits and was then sent off to SVEC for an actual proof. This is where we discovered that just because you think you have an understanding, there’s a good reason steps such as printer’s proofs exist. The first round of proofs back from SVEC and they looked great…but were on the same paper as our normal programs, an 80# white gloss and matte paper. Not like a tabloid at all. I contacted the printers and said we had wanted newsprint. Bobby Firestein, the President of SVEC Conway and our contact for this project, explained that the only places in town that print newsprint are Gannett and The Washington Post because you need special machines for newsprint. Major learning moment. (At some point soon, some of the Woolly staff will be making a field trip out to SVEC’s offices in Silver Spring, MD, to see and get a better understanding of the printing process, a need highlighted by this process and because they are awesome and do a great deal of our printing. There will definitely be photo documentation of our field trip on our Facebook Page. ) Bobby then worked with us to find a lighter weight, recycled paper that was closer to the color and feel of newsprint, then had their in-house designer use Photoshop to throw newspaper texture taken from another publication into the background of our file to get us closer to the grayish tint of newsprint. Bobby even offered to have the programs wrinkled as they were packing them which we passed on. We figured our patrons would help us out on that front. All of this happened with a deadline looming over our heads.
Somehow the programs went to print only a few days later than we had scheduled and they made it to the theatre with plenty of time to spare, looking fantastic. How do we know they look fantastic? Our Assistant to the General Manager, Paul Kappel, tweeted “overheard @WoollyMammothTC tonight: ‘these programs are brilliant!’” When The Second City came to visit during the Rallies for Fear and Sanity, they gave them a look-see and liked them a lot. That’s a huge compliment coming masters of satire and very funny people. The programs are also fantastic because they present the information we need to communicate to our audience in a creative and engaging manner. Sitting in the lobby in bright orange newspaper boxes, you can’t miss them. Come see House of Gold and pick up the latest edition of Woolly World News. As for the rest of the Season, who knows what we’ll come up with? With this inaugural effort a solid success, program layout will continue be exciting, hopefully slightly less intimidating, and Woolly will continue to challenge itself and defy convention.
~Kate Ahern Loveric, Graphic Design & Web Manager